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The Essential Weekly Gym Workout Plan for Women Who Want to Start Strength Training

You've probably heard that you should strength train on the reg. After all, it builds lean muscles, burns fat, and shapes your body in ~magical~ ways. (And, really, you won't bulk up. We promise.) But putting together a strength training program that hits all the important muscles—but doesn't have you working out the sore ones—can be tricky.

Well, thanks to Barry's Bootcamp trainer Rebecca Kennedy, you don't need to do squat. (Except, well, squats). She cooked up this three-day gym workout plan for women so you don't need to wander around the free weight section without a clue. (BTW, here's why you really shouldn't be afraid of the weight room.)

How it works: This gym workout plan consists of one upper-body workout, one lower-body workout, and one total-body workout. Incorporate these into your weekly routine, adding cardio (spin class, running, etc.) as desired. Leave at least one to two days between strength training the same muscles. If you've been at it for a few weeks and it's feeling too easy, bump up the weights.

Day 1: Upper Body Workout

You'll need: A set of light (5- to 10-lb) dumbbells, a set of medium (8- to 15-lb) dumbbells, and a set of heavy (12- to 25-lb) dumbbells.

1a. Concentrated Biceps Curl
A. Sit on a bench, knees wide, holding a heavy dumbbell in right hand. Rest right elbow on inside of right thigh, palm facing in.
B. Slowly curl dumbbell up to shoulder without moving right elbow.
C. Lower dumbbell slowly back to starting position.

Do 12 reps. Repeat on opposite side.

1b. Eccentric Biceps Curl
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward.
B. Curl dumbbells up to shoulders in one swift motion.
C. Very slowly, lower dumbbells down to starting position, feeling the eccentric contraction in the biceps.

Do 12 reps.

1c. High Pull
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand with palms facing thighs.
B. Keeping core tight, drive elbows up to pull dumbbells to shoulder height.
C. Return to starting position.

Do 12 reps.

Do 3 sets of exercises 1a through 1c.

2a. Bird Dog Triceps Kickback
A. Start in tabletop position on all fours. Hold a medium dumbbell in the right hand, elbow tucked next to ribs, palm facing in, and elbow bent at 90 degrees.
B. Squeeze triceps to straighten right arm, lifting dumbbell back next to hip while extending left leg backward.
C. Return dumbbell to starting position and draw left leg back in under hips, hovering knee off the floor.

Do 12 reps. Repeat on opposite side.

2b. Triceps Push-Up

A. Start in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists.
B. Lower torso until arms are bent at 90 degrees, keeping arms in tight by sides so triceps graze ribs.
C. Press torso away from the floor to return to starting position.

Do 12 reps.

2c. Front-to-Lateral Raise

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart holding a light dumbbell in each hand in front of thighs, palms facing in.
B. Keeping core tight, slowly raise dumbbells to shoulder level with palms facing down. Return to starting position.
C. Rotate dumbbells to outside of thighs, then raise them out to the sides to shoulder height, leading with elbows not wrists.
D. Slowly lower to starting position.

Do 12 reps.

Do 3 sets of exercises 2a through 2c.

Finisher: Hammer Curl + Overhead Press + Triceps Extension

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart holding a light dumbbell in each hand by sides, palms facing in.
B. Curl dumbbells up to shoulders, palms facing in.
C. Press dumbbells overhead.
D. Press dumbbells together, then slowly lower behind head, elbows pointing up to the ceiling.
E. Reverse movement to return to starting position.

Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Day 2: Lower Body Workout

You'll need: A set of medium (8- to 15-lb) dumbbells and a set of heavy (12- to 30-lb) dumbbells.

1a. Eccentric Squat
A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, racked on shoulders.
B. Hinge at hips and knees to lower slowly into a squat, taking three counts to reach the bottom.
C. Press through mid-foot to return to starting position in one count.

Do 10 reps.

1b. Deficit Reverse Lunge
A.
Stand on top of a bench or box with heavy dumbbells in hands by sides.
B. Step back with the right foot into a reverse lunge, lowering until front thigh is parallel to the ground.
C. Press off the back foot to return to starting position, tapping right toes to bench between reps.

Do 10 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.

1c. Offset Ipsilateral Side Lunge
A. Stand with feet together holding a medium dumbbell racked over the right shoulder.
B. Step out to the right, lowering into a side lunge with the left leg straight (but not locked).
C. Press off the right foot to return to starting position.

Do 10 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.

Do 3 sets of exercises 1a through 1c.

2a. RDL
A. Stand facing away from a box or step with the laces of the left foot resting on top. Hold medium dumbbells in hands by sides.
B. Hinge forward at the hips to lower dumbbells along straight (but not locked) right leg.
C. Return to starting position, keeping back flat.

Do 10 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.

2b. Deadlift
A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding heavy dumbbells in hands in front of thighs.
B. Keeping back flat, hinge forward at the hips and slightly bend knees to lower dumbbells in front of shins.
C. Return to starting position, keeping back flat.

2c. Front Lunge
A. Stand with feet together.
B. Step forward with the right foot into a lunge, lowering until front thigh is parallel to the floor.
C. Step back to starting position, and repeat on the opposite side. That's 1 rep.

Do 10 reps.

Do 3 sets of exercises 2a through 2c.

Finisher: Goblet Curtsy Lunge to Squat
A. Stand with feet together holding one heavy dumbbell vertically in front of chest.
B. Step left foot back and to the right to lower into a curtsy lunge.
C. Return to starting position, then step left foot out to stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, and lower into a squat.
D. Return to starting position.

Do 10 reps. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 5 sets.

Day 3: Full-Body Workout

You'll need: A set of medium (8- to 15-lb) dumbbells, a set of heavy (12- to 30-lb) dumbbells, and a towel.

1a. Renegade Row to Frogger
A. Start in a plank position holding medium-weight dumbbells under shoulders.
B. Row the right dumbbell up to chest, leading with elbow and keeping hips stable. Return to starting position, then repeat on the opposite side.
C. Keeping hands in place on the floor, jump feet forward outside of hands, sinking hips low into a deep squat.
D. Jump feet back to a high plank to return to starting position.

Do 10 to 12 reps.

1b. Front Squat
A. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding two heavy dumbbells racked in front of shoulders.
B. Inhale and hinge at hips to lower into a squat, keeping back straight.
C. Exhale and press into mid-foot to return to starting position.

Do 10 to 12 reps.

Do 3 sets of exercises 1a and 1b.

2a. Chest Press Bridge
A. Lie faceup with feet flat on the floor and knees pointed toward the ceiling. Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand over shoulder.
B. Simultaneously press hips up into a bridge and press dumbbells up to straighten (but not lock) arms.
C. Carefully return to starting position.

Do 10 to 12 reps.

2b. Lateral to Reverse Towel Slides
A. Stand with feet together, a towel under the right foot.
B. Slide right foot out into a lateral lunge, bending left knee and keeping right leg straight (but not locked).
C. Slide right foot in to return to starting position, then slide right foot back and bend left leg to lower into a reverse lunge.
D. Slide right forward to return to starting position.

Do 10 to 12 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.

Do 3 sets of exercises 2a and 2b.

3a. Pullover Kickout
A. Lie faceup on the floor. Hold one medium-weight dumbbell horizontally over chest with knees crunched in toward chest.
B. Extend arms overhead, biceps by ears, and extend legs long, hovering feet off the floor.
C. Draw belly button to spine to crunch in, returning to starting position.

Do 10 to 12 reps.

3b. Single-Leg Deadlift with Wide Row
A. Balance on right foot, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of thighs.
B. Hinge forward at the hips to lower dumbbells in front of right shin, kicking the left leg straight backward.
C. Pause at the bottom and row dumbbells up to chest, elbows wide.
D. Lower dumbbells and reverse movement to return to starting position.

Do 10 to 12 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.

Do 3 sets of exercises 3a and 3b.

4a. Single-Leg Knee Tap on Bench
A. Stand on the left leg on top of a bench with the right leg lifted at a 90-degree angle to hip height, thigh parallel to the floor.
B. Lower right knee next to left, still bent at 90 degrees. Bend left leg to lower right knee as far as possible, trying to tap knee to the bench.
C. Straighten left leg to stand, driving right knee back up to hip height.

Do 10 to 12 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.

4b. Ski Swings
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding medium dumbbells in hands by sides.
B. Hinge at the hips with knees bent, driving dumbbells backward past hips.
C. Swing dumbbells forward and up to shoulder height, using the momentum to stand.

Do 10 to 12 reps.

Do 3 sets of exercises 4a and 4b.

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